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Health & Physical Development

Health and Physical Development Domain

The Health and Physical Development domain focuses on children’s physical growth, motor development, sound nutritional choices, self-care, and health and safety practices. Healthy children who are able to move and play are ready to learn more effectively in all domains.

Online Activities for Health and Physical Development

Book Suggestions for Health and Physical Development

Physical Growth/Nutrition

A child’s body goes through a period of rapid growth from birth to age five. Because children’s bodies more than double in size and their brains develop rapidly, establishing good health and eating habits is important. Good nutrition promotes not only physical growth and health, but cognitive skills such as memory, problem solving and decision-making. Teachers and caregivers should provide time for children to play and participate in a variety of activities in a risk-free, noncompetitive environment.

Fitness

Young children develop motor skills that support coordination and physical fitness. Developmental milestones don’t occur at the same time for all children, but growth and motor development follow similar sequence as their skill build. From crawling to walking, running to playing organized games.

Independence

Health and physical development also include children’s independence carrying out personal routines. This grows when children begin to participate in individual routines. Such as:

Because children show greater independence as they grow older, caregivers and teachers should work with families to decide when and how to promote children’s self-care routines.

It’s important to know that each child develop at his or her own pace. However, teachers and caregivers may be the first to notice that a child’s development is not consistent with typical expectations. Additional evaluation may be needed if a child is not meeting many or all of the Early Learning Guidelines.

Physical Health and Growth

Goal HPD-1: Children develop healthy eating habits.

Developmental Indicator Continuum

Infants
(Birth - 12 months)
Younger Toddlers
(8 - 21 months)
Older Toddlers
(18 - 36 months)
Younger Preschoolers
(36 - 48 months)
Older Preschoolers
(45 - 60+ months)
  • Eat different kinds of food such as liquids, pureed or soft foods, and finely chopped food.
  • Show interest in feeding routines.
  • Help with feeding themselves (eat finger foods, hold bottle).
  • Show hunger or fullness using actions, sounds, or words (cry or search for food, turn away when full).
  • Show food preferences.
  • Respond to different textures of food in their mouth (wait for the next bite, spit out food, turn head away).
  • Try new foods.
  • Feed themselves with some assistance.
  • Communicate when hungry, thirsty, or has had enough.
  • Eat enough to meet nutritional needs, although amount or type of food may vary over time (eat a lot at one meal and little at the next, show interest in many foods but no interest in others).
  • Eat a variety of small pieces of age-appropriate table foods.
  • Distinguish between food and non-food items.
  • Occasionally able to make nutritious choices with support.
  • Feed themselves using utensils and hands.
  • Accept or refuse food depending on their appetite and personal preference (make food choices at a meal, leave unwanted food on plate, ask for seconds of favorite food).
  • Notice and talk about food preferences, textures, temperatures, and tastes (crunchy crackers, warm soup, sweet apples).
  • Demonstrate willingness to try new healthy foods when offered several times and sometimes able to make nutritious choices with support.
  • Feed themselves with utensils independently.
  • Communicate that some foods are good for them (fresh fruits, vegetables, milk) and some are not healthy (potato chips, soda).
  • Demonstrate willingness to try new healthy foods and make nutritious eating choices independently and with support.
  • Regulate food consumption based on their own feelings of hunger and fullness
  • Given a selection of familiar foods, identify which foods are nutritious and which are not.
  • Talk about variety and serving size of foods needed to be healthy, naming some foods and beverages that help to build healthy bodies.

Physical Health and Growth

Goal HPD-2: Children engage in active physical play indoors and outdoors.

Developmental Indicator Continuum

Infants
(Birth - 12 months)
Younger Toddlers
(8 - 21 months)
Older Toddlers
(18 - 36 months)
Younger Preschoolers
(36 - 48 months)
Older Preschoolers
(45 - 60+ months)
  • Engage in physically active moments (spending time on their tummy, repeating actions, kicking, waving arms, rolling over).
  • Move their bodies to explore the indoor and outdoor environment.
  • Develop strength and stamina by continuing movements over short periods of time.
  • Show they enjoy active play and seek to be physically active (choose to play often on climber, laugh and squeal while moving).
  • Anticipate and ask for outdoor play (point at door and say, “Out,” sometimes preferring to stay outside).
  • Engage in regular and sustained movement (push toys around play area, go up and down, slide over and over).
  • Develop strength and stamina as they use large muscles and participate in physical activity for longer periods of time.
  • Show satisfaction with new active skills and strengths (ask others to watch them. “I’m big and strong!”
  • With guidance and support, transition from active to quiet activities.
  • Develop strength and stamina by spending moderate periods of time playing vigorously.
  • Choose a variety of structured and unstructured physical activities indoors and outdoors.
  • Participate in simple games and other structured motor activities that enhance physical fitness (songs with movement, throwing and catching).
  • Transition from active to quiet activities with limited guidance and support.
  • Develop strength and stamina by spending moderate periods of time playing vigorously.
  • Communicate ways exercise keeps us healthy and makes us feel good.
  • Participate in structured and unstructured motor activities that build strength, speed, flexibility, and coordination (red light, green light; chase; free play).
  • Transition independently from active to quiet activities most of the time.
  • Develop strength and stamina by increasing their amount of play and activity, using more muscles for longer periods of time.

Physical Health and Growth

Goal HPD-3: Children develop healthy sleeping habits.

Developmental Indicator Continuum

Infants
(Birth - 12 months)
Younger Toddlers
(8 - 21 months)
Older Toddlers
(18 - 36 months)
Younger Preschoolers
(36 - 48 months)
Older Preschoolers
(45 - 60+ months)
  • Sleep for longer periods at a time (more at night, and less during the day).
  • Settle down and fall asleep after a routine that includes a familiar series of events, such as calming songs and stories.
  • Sleep well and show alertness during waking periods.
  • Cooperate with sleep routines (choose a book, get preferred sleep toy).
  • Use simple sounds, gestures, or words to show they are tired (say, “Night, night;” go to get familiar stuffed animal or other comfort item).
  • Sleep well, waking rested.
  • Use language about sleep (“Time for bed,” after clearing lunch things; give sign for sleep).
  • With guidance, participate in sleep routines (wash hands after lunch, get comfort item, listen to calming songs and/or stories, lie down on bed or mat).
  • Fall asleep on their own.
  • Sleep well, waking rested and ready for daily activities.
  • Recognize and communicate signs of being tired.
  • With increasing independence, start and participate in sleep routines, including listening to calming songs and/or stories.
  • Stay awake except during nap time.
  • Communicate ways sleep keeps us healthy and makes us feel good.
  • Independently start and participate in sleep routines most of the time, including listening to calming songs and/or stories.
  • Stay awake and alert except during voluntary nap time.

Motor Development

Goal HPD-4: Children engage in play and movement to develop the large muscle control and abilities needed to explore and move in their environment.

Developmental Indicator Continuum

Infants
(Birth - 12 months)
Younger Toddlers
(8 - 21 months)
Older Toddlers
(18 - 36 months)
Younger Preschoolers
(36 - 48 months)
Older Preschoolers
(45 - 60+ months)
  • Develop control of head and back, progressing to arm and leg movements.
  • Maintain upright posture when sitting and standing.
  • Explore body positions and movements, rolling, pushing up, pulling to stand, and kicking or reaching for objects to achieve a goal.
  • Move from place to place as their abilities allow (squirm, roll, scoot, crawl, cruise, or walk).
  • Develop strength, balance, and coordination by repeating movements (pull up and sit down; bend and straighten, squat to pick something up from the floor).
  • Coordinate arm and leg movements to explore, climb, push, pull, and achieve goals (push a stroller, use riding toys, crawl up steps).
  • Move through the world with increasing independence (crawl, cruise, walk, run, use therapeutic walker).
  • Coordinate movements for a purpose (kick, jump, step, pedal, push away).
  • Move through the world with a variety of movements and with increasing independence and control (run, jump, pedal).
  • Use familiar objects that encourage large motor movements (riding toys, crawl tubes, large ball in basket, slide).
  • Perform actions smoothly with balance, strength, coordination (dance, bend over to pick up a toy, reach up high on a shelf, walk up and down steps).
  • Demonstrate increasing stamina, body strength, endurance and balance, managing uneven surfaces such as hills, ramps, and steps.
  • Refine movements and show generally increasing coordination (throwing and catching).
  • Use a variety of toys and equipment that enhance gross motor development (balls, slides, pedaling toys, assistive technology).
  • Move their bodies in space with increasing coordination and ability to cross the midline, such as using alternate feet on steps, touching toes on one side of the body with the opposite hand.
  • Demonstrate stability, flexibility, and balance while performing complex movements by standing on one foot, turning, stretching, bending, hopping, balancing on beams, jumping, and moving to music.
  • Demonstrate more coordination of upper and lower body when, throwing, catching, kicking, bouncing objects, swinging, and hitting objects with racquets or paddles.
  • Move quickly through the environment and be able to both change directions and stop (run fast, pedal fast).
  • Show awareness of own body in relation to other people and objects while moving through space. When asked, can move in front of, beside, or behind someone or something else.
  • Participate in play and movement activities and describe how physical activity contributes to their overall health (“Exercise helps make me strong!”).

Motor Development

Goal HPD-5: Children engage in play and experiences to develop muscle control and hand-eye coordination to manipulate objects and work with tools.

Developmental Indicator Continuum

Infants
(Birth - 12 months)
Younger Toddlers
(8 - 21 months)
Older Toddlers
(18 - 36 months)
Younger Preschoolers
(36 - 48 months)
Older Preschoolers
(45 - 60+ months)
  • Use both hands to swipe at, reach for, grasp, hold, shake, and release objects.
  • Explore shape, weight, size, and texture by turning objects, dropping, or transferring objects from one hand to another.
  • Use index finger and thumb (pincer grasp) to pick up an object with finger and thumb.
  • Use hands and eyes together for more complex actions (put together and take apart toys, feed themselves finger foods, fill containers).
  • Use hands to explore and manipulate objects (pick up and examine, stack two or three large blocks, pick up or roll a ball, and turn pages in board books).
  • Use simple tools (spoon for feeding hammer with pegs, crayon for scribbling).
  • Use hands and eyes together with a moderate degree of control (complete puzzles, thread beads with large holes, use shape sorters, put on mittens, painting at easel).
  • Plan and use more complex refined hand movements (stack a few small blocks, draw, look for a favorite page in a book, practice self-care routines).
  • Use tools that require finger and hand control (large paintbrush, measuring cups, switches, shovel, rolling pin).
  • Engage in activities that require hand-eye coordination (build with manipulatives mold play dough, work puzzles with smaller pieces).
  • Draw simple shapes and figures (square for block, circles).
  • Use tools that require strength, control, and dexterity of small muscles (forks, crayons, markers, safety scissors, adapted tools).
  • Engage in complex hand-eye coordination activities and play with a moderate degree of precision and control (fasten clothing, cut shapes, put together small pieces, string beads).
  • Display strength and control while using a variety of tools and materials including scissors, pencils, crayons, small toys, spray bottles, and hole punchers.
  • Draw and write figures with more detail (faces with features, letters, or letter-like forms).
  • Participate in self-help skills, such as buttoning, zipping, snapping and pouring.

Self-care, Safety, and Well Being

Goal HPD-6: Children develop personal hygiene and selfcare skills.

Developmental Indicator Continuum

Infants
(Birth - 12 months)
Younger Toddlers
(8 - 21 months)
Older Toddlers
(18 - 36 months)
Younger Preschoolers
(36 - 48 months)
Older Preschoolers
(45 - 60+ months)
  • Tolerate care routines (mouth care, handwashing, diapering, dressing, and bathing).
  • Show interest and assist in routines (open mouth for milk or spoon, raise arms for dressing, open mouth for milk or spoon).
  • Cooperate and help with care routines and cleanup (mouthcare, hand-washing, diapering, dressing, bathing).
  • Drink from a cup and feed themselves with their fingers or a spoon.
  • Initiate self-care routines and complete with guidance (put on some clothes, undress, throw away paper towel, begin to show interest in toileting).
  • Help with snack routines.
  • Dress and undress themselves with occasional assistance.
  • Follow basic hygiene practices with reminders (brush teeth, wash hands, use toilet, cough into elbow).
  • Serve food for themselves.
  • Dress and undress themselves independently.
  • Independently practice personal care and selfhelp skills, including washing hands, brushing teeth, toileting, flushing, throwing tissues away.
  • Help with meal and snack preparation.
  • Describe the value of good health practices to their well-being (wash hands to get rid of germs, drink milk to build strong bones).

Self-care, Safety, and Well Being

Goal HPD-7: Children use safe behaviors and personal safety practices with support from adults.

Developmental Indicator Continuum

Infants
(Birth - 12 months)
Younger Toddlers
(8 - 21 months)
Older Toddlers
(18 - 36 months)
Younger Preschoolers
(36 - 48 months)
Older Preschoolers
(45 - 60+ months)
  • Show trust in familiar caregivers (calm down with adult help, make eye contact with caregivers).
  • Notice and imitate adults’ reactions to new people and situations.
  • Watch for adult reactions to unfamiliar things or situations that might be dangerous.
  • Show some caution about unfamiliar and/or unsafe situations.
  • Respond to simple warnings that prevent harm. (“Stop!” “Hot!” “Wait!”)
  • With guidance, remember cause and effect experiences and apply their experiences to future situations (avoid touching cold railing, walk slowly down steep hill where fall happened).
  • Increase self-control over their impulses (remind self not to touch something; wait for adult vs. running ahead).
  • Cooperate with adults in unsafe situation, such as being cautious with unknown dog and taking adult’s hand to cross street.
  • Learn what their bodies can do, and primarily play within their abilities to avoid injury to self or others.
  • Usually recognize and avoid objects and situations that might cause harm.
  • Usually follow basic safety rules.
  • Call a trusted adult when someone gets injured or is in an unsafe situation.
  • Identify, avoid, and alert other children to potentially dangerous behaviors, such as keeping a safe distance from swings.
  • Consistently recognize and avoid people, objects, substances, activities, and environments that might cause harm.
  • With support, show how to respond safely in emergency situations, such as fire or tornado, and in the presence of strangers or dangerous objects. Recognize basic safety symbols, such as poison symbols.
  • Know how and when to alert adults to dangerous situations or in an emergency, including in public places, such as a store, identifying people who may be able to help them.
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